Elijah Blake doesn’t just study the game; he discerns the human qualities that go into superstardom. From writing credits on the biggest albums from Rihanna, Kehlani, and Keyshia Cole to building a veteran career before age 30, Blake knows precisely what it takes to make music at the highest level.

“When [Rihanna] takes that record, it doesn't matter who wrote it. It doesn't matter what that person is thinking about. She applies it to her pain and her story. To me, that's the highest form of art,” Blake told REVOLT.

In this installment of “Studio Sessions,” the Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter explained how working with Keyshia Cole was like a therapy session. He also discussed learning from Rih and shared an exclusive update on his next album. Get into the conversation below.

Weren’t you 15 years old when you helped write Rihanna’s “No Love Allowed”?

I was 16. I was 15 when I did “Jupiter Love” with Trey Songz. I had a development deal with [Atlantic Records] back then. Trey hadn't even cut his hair yet. I witnessed Trey go from “Gotta Make It” to superstar. I watched him decide, “I’m going to cut my hair. I’m going to go to the gym.” He had a trainer. I saw the discipline that it takes to have that transitional moment. I had a gift for storytelling. Trey encouraged that. One day, he said, “Write me a song.” I told him I would. Then he said, “No, right now.” That’s how we started making “Jupiter Love.”

Was there a lyric you came up with in the song that impressed Trey?

Yep, when he says, “I think it's time we take a trip to the bed/ Girl yo' body's talking, and I'm loving what she said.” He went, “Wooooo! That’s it right there” (laughs). I thought that was the verse, but Troy Taylor said, “No, that's the hook.”

Let’s move on to Rihanna’s “No Love Allowed.” You’re 16 years old, and you've been placed on one of her best albums. How did that happen?

I'm Caribbean, and I had just signed up for Roc Nation. Let me say this right now: Rihanna’s albums are like the Olympics. If you think you're the best songwriter, producer, or whatever, you have to compete for 10 or 12 spots on this album. You're going up against Max Martin. You're going up against Darkchild. You're going up against Ne-Yo and The-Dream. That's the one project that everyone is trying to make. When she was working on that project, Roc Nation flew me out to London, and I was working with Stargate. I got a really bad toothache in my wisdom tooth. It got so bad that I told Jay [Brown] to please send me home (laughs). At the time, I was signed to No I.D. They wanted him to come out there. I guess he hit Jay saying, “Elijah and I want to just create in a free environment at the studio.” It was a studio he had, and they gave us two weeks to create. I was working with James Poyser, and I was obsessing over Lauryn Hill’s music and how she was able to incorporate the Marley influence into the soul sound. At that moment, I heard on the intercom that Jay Brown was there, and he wanted to listen to the Rih records. I ran into that booth so fast and sang, “9-1-1, it’s a critical emergency (laughs).” And he loved it.

Have you ever been in the studio with Rihanna?

Yeah. Being that young and in the room with her, I could only take in that aura and energy, and apply it to my artistry because she's one of the last superstars. If you look at Muni Long, Victoria Monét, myself, and SZA, we're the last batch of artists to actually go through artist development because we got to be in those rooms with artists like Usher, and really see those decisions and then apply that dedication. What I loved about Rih was her ability to take a record and make it hers -- to me, that's true artistry. I want to clarify one of the biggest misconceptions in music. People will look at somebody like myself who started off writing for other people and say we’re writers-turned-artists. That’s not the case. Most of the time, we start as artists but don't want to be starving artists, so we write for others and get our bags up to fight for our visions.

A lot of times, you're hearing records from people who can sing really well, who articulate it, and it’s their story. A lot of times, that's a little intimidating if you don't have your own sense of identity as an artist trying to receive those records or find a place in those records. For Rihanna, it’s her tone, her energy. So, when she takes that record, it doesn't matter who wrote it. It doesn't matter what that person is thinking about. She applies it to her pain and her story. To me, that's the highest form of art.

Later in your career, you produced a lot of vocals on Kehlani’s While We Wait. Speak a bit about your experience helping her with that mixtape.

During the pandemic, vocal productions kept my lights on when the music industry tried to figure itself out when we couldn’t tour. We couldn't really do sessions like that. Kehlani was super motivated. I loved her tone. I felt like there was a part of her tone that we hadn't tapped into yet. There's this rasp but also clarity. Kehlani loves harmonies, and we both shared that love for Brandy. I also call Kehlani “Xerox” in my brain because if you tell her what to do, she can do it. Those were some of the most fun sessions. “Nunya” was the first session we did. If you listen to those riffs, and runs and the spacing, that’s what I helped with. When we did that together, we were trying to have a Brandy and Rodney [Jerkins] moment.

What was a moment in the studio when a star was just being their authentic self?

It was the first time I worked with Keyshia Cole, who is now a sister to me. That’s my heart. There was a song that the whole industry was fighting over. I think Beyoncé had the record, then Mariah had the record, then Jennifer Hudson had this record. The record ended up with Keyshia. I was asked to go in and be her vocal producer. She doesn't like everybody and will say how she feels. I couldn't believe how beautiful she was. I told her, “You need to stop mean mugging because you’re stunning.” Immediately, the studio was like a therapy session. The process of writing for someone is very intimate. Whatever was happening in her marriage, I couldn't believe her transparency. She trusted me and felt safe and secure throughout the making of her Woman [to] Woman project.

You recently put out a record called “Ghostbuster.” Take us through the creative process for that.

Rell [the Soundbender] and Donye'a [Goodin] started that. I knew I was going through a really bad breakup. I told myself I had to take exactly how I was feeling right now and encapsulate it into a body of work that would help somebody who may not see themselves coming out the other side and may not be as mentally strong. I drove an hour and a half to that producer’s crib. He only had a setup in his bedroom. I literally sat on this guy's bed and recorded (laughs). He had a girl over, and his roommate was playing Xbox in the living room, so I recorded it. The door was open, and I was hollering in their house, singing this song halfway in tears.

Are fans getting a new project this year?

I think this is my first time speaking on it, but the album comes out in June. It’s called Elijah. My 12-year career is now leading to this point of self-realization. I feel like I'm starting now. With everything I know and everything I'm willing to share, it clicks now. I know my sound, tone, and what people want to hear. I know what will resonate on this project. Everything was intentional in this project. I already turned it in for mixing and mastering and approved the vinyl. The vinyl comes out on the day of the project. That's something I haven't spoken about yet.

Is there anything else fans should check for from you in 2024? Are there any collaborations on the album?

I'm not doing any features on this project. I always said if I ever did a self-titled project, you would get 100 percent of me. For the deluxe version, we already have some really crazy features. You’re going to come into a world reminiscent of some of the greats that inspired me, like Michael Jackson and Prince. I love how committed they were to the characters they were. I love artistry where you create this world where weirdos, geeks and freaks can all come together and share that. With this project, I'm really committed to the art in that way. I wanted it to feel like it did in the ‘80s. I want there to be a balance of masculine and feminine energy. I want to balance all the things I felt like Michael, James Brown, and David Bowie possessed. So, you're going to see that in the live performances. You're going to see that in the videos. I'm leaning back into choreography. So, “Ghostbuster” was more of the storytelling, but this next single is full-on choreo. I want to bring that back, too. I want 1,000 dancers like in “Thriller.”